Cliff Annis

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Clifford Westland Annis

Cliff Annis
Died July 1997 (aged 75)
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston
Cause of death Cancer
Education Boston Grammar School
Occupation Lancaster pilot; company director
Employer RAF; Lincs Aerial Spraying Company
Notable work(s) Companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society
Spouse Irene Beatrice (died 14th January 2018 aged 93)
Children Heather, Gaye

Clifford Westland "Cliff" Annis was educated at Boston Grammar School.

RAF service

Cliff was a Lancaster pilot during the war and received serious injuries when his plane was shot down. Cliff was on the same crew as Jack Birbeck. In his book "Birbeck's War", Jack writes:

"The first night I was at Wymeswold I went into Loughborough and, as one did in those days, went into the first pub I saw, and the first person I met was a fellow Old Boy of my old school. He had graduated as a pilot under the same American Air Force scheme that I had failed under. Over a few beers we agreed to crew up together. The next day he picked the rest of the crew by the traditional method."

Jack tells of their final mission.

"The flight to within sight of the target markers was uneventful. We had just turned on to the last leg and the bombing run when there was a warning from the rear gunner of a German fighter on the port quarter. The fighter opened fire immediately, setting fire to the port outer engine. We did not hear again from Johnny, our rear gunner. I think it is likely that he was wounded or killed in this attack. The Pilot and Flight Engineer, by losing height and operating the remotely controlled fire extinguisher, managed to put out the fire. But this engine was now U/S and the pilot had to feather the propeller. We were now reduced to three engines.

"We resumed the bombing run and I had a target marker in my bombsight, when there was a cry from the Mid-Upper Gunner 'There's another b----- on the port quarter'. I continued to direct the pilot, as somebody else in the crew shouted over the inter-com., 'Let the b-----s go'. I had just got up on my knees, after releasing the bombs, when the fighter opened fire. I heard the rattle of cannon fire and a stream of tracer passed about 6 inches from me and near to where my head had been when I was lying down. I remember looking to my left and seeing a pattern of holes being made in the nose of the aircraft. I was stationed over the front escape hatch and, according to the drill, I had to be the first out, followed by the rest of the crew in the front of the aircraft.

"When I think back now about the incident i am convinced that Someone was looking after me that night. My parachute pack was stowed under several bundles of leaflets and Window. The plane was on fire and nose down rapidly losing height. Yet I calmly threw the bundles on one side, retrieved my chute, clipped it on the harness on the hooks on my chest with the 'D' ring correctly presented to my right hand. I then released the escape hatch cover and went out. I conscientiously counted to 10 so that I was clear of the aircraft before my chute opened."

Jack parachuted into trees and started to walk Westwards. In the morning he was picked up by the Volkssturm. He was later reunited with Cliff.

"About midday, my full escort returned and they moved me a short distance to what I think was the village pub. They took me into a room where, lying on his back on the floor, I saw Cliff. His parachute canopy was folded up under his head as a pillow. HE seemed to be unconscious. I got on my knees beside him and saw he appeared to have a wound in his throat as though a bullet had entered one side and exited on the other. It looked as though he had a similar injury to one of his feet. He kept drifting in and out of consciousness and I wasn't able to speak to him. I made him as comfortable as I could. Quite honestly I did not know what to do..."

"...a young lad appeared. I tried my schoolboy French and to my relief he answered me. I asked him to translate my request for a doctor to attend to Cliff. He spoke to a man standing next to him. This man nearly exploded and I realised my request had not been well received. The lad said that he said 'The doctors are too busy attending to the injured in Nuremberg to help Terrorfliegers'.

"Meanwhile Cliff was most of the time unconscious. I thought of all the good times we had had together and wondered how it would all end. If Cliff did not survive and I got home after the war what would I tell his parents? All sorts of thoughts went through my head. Then I saw a packet of cigarettes sticking out of Cliff's breast pocket. I had smoked all mine and was desperate for a smoke. I resisted the temptation for some time and then I thought, 'Cliff can't smoke them and it is likely that the Germans will', so I gave in and had one. I am not sure whether I should be ashamed or not..."

"About the middle of the afternoon there was a stir in one of the doorways and cries of, 'Herr Doktor, Herr Doktor'. The throng parted and a little old man with close cropped hair and carrying a Gladstone bag fought his way through. He put his bag on the floor and knelt beside Cliff. He just looked at him for two or three minutes then grabbed his battledress blouse and pulled him into a sitting position. Cliff screamed with pain. The doctor let go of him and Cliff fell on his back again. The doctor then stood up, picked up his bag, and walked out without saying a word. I do not know too much about subsequent events but it seems likely that the Doctor, realising that he could not do much for Cliff, arranged for him to be picked up and taken to hospital.

"He spent most of his time as a prisoner in hospital. It turned out that he had a broken neck and in 1944 was repatriated to the UK in a prisoner exchange via Sweden. Notwithstanding his injuries which left him with a paralysed right hand, he obtained a private pilot's licence after the war and had a successful career in civil aviation. When I saw him again after the war, he told me his last memory was of taking off that night. I think it is likely that he landed on some outbuildings at the pub."


From the August 1997 issue of The Old Bostonian

Clifford, of Pilleys Lane, died in July in Pilgrim Hospital at the age of 75.

Born in Boston, he lived in the town all his life, apart from the years of his war service. During the war he served in the RAF as a Lancaster Pilot. He was shot down and became a prisoner of war. He was repatriated owing to severe injuries - injuries from which he suffered for the rest of his life.

After the war he was involved in the flying industry in many ways. He was a pioneer of aerial spraying as a director of Lincs Aerial Spraying Company.

He was a companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society and at one time chairman of the National Aviation and Agricultural Contractors. He was much involved over the years with Boston 141 Squadron Air Training Corps and was appointed its honorary president.

He was a member of the Air Crew Association, a past president of Boston Rotary Club and founder of the Boston Probus Club.

Cliff was a very popular man with many interests. He was a keen sportsman with special love of shooting and fishing.

He leaves his wife Irene, daughters Heather and Gaye and five grandchildren.